The most consistent symptom of diabetes mellitus (Type I and II) is elevated blood sugar levels. In Type I (insulin dependent / early onset) diabetes, this is caused by the body not producing enough insulin to properly regulate blood sugar. In Type II (non insulin dependent/adult onset) diabetes, it is caused by the body developing resistance to insulin, so it cannot properly use what it produces.
However, high blood sugar is not something you can see in the mirror at home, so it is useful to know the side-effects of high blood sugar, which are commonly recognized as the noticeable symptoms of diabetes.
If you find yourself experiencing many of these diabetes symptoms on a consistent, long term basis, you should visit a doctor to be tested for diabetes. Ignoring (or not recognizing) the symptoms of diabetes can lead to long-term serious health risks and complications from untreated diabetes. Some of the common ‘early warning’ signs of diabetes are:
- The first symptom of diabetes is often excessive thirst (unrelated to exercise, hot weather, or short-term illness)
- Excessive hunger (you know you’ve eaten “enough” but are still hungry all the time)
- Frequent urination (often noticed because you must wake up repeatedly during the night)
- Tiredness and fatigue (possibly severe enough to make you fall asleep unexpectedly after meals), one of the most common symptoms of diabetes.
- Rapid and/or sudden weight loss (any dramatic change in weight is a sign to visit a doctor)
While many of the signs and symptoms of diabetes can also be related to other causes, testing for diabetes is very easy, and the constant/regular presence of one or more of these symptoms over an extended period of time should be cause for a visit to the doctor.
If diabetes is suspected, tested for, and diagnosed when those symptoms first start appearing, other more serious symptoms of advanced diabetes can often be prevented or have their onset significantly delayed through diet, exercise and proper blood sugar management.
However, often the ‘minor’ symptoms of diabetes go unrecognized, and physical and neurological problems may arise, resulting in some
of the following symptoms:
- Blurred vision (diabetes can lead to macular degeneration and eventual blindness)
- Numbness and/or tingling in the hands and feet (peripheral neuropathy, a symptom of diabetes, causes nerve damage in the extremities)
- Slow healing of minor scratches and wounds (diabetes often leads to impaired immune system function)
- Recurrent or hard-to-treat yeast infections in women (another sign of impaired immune function)
- Dry or itchy skin (peripheral neuropathy also affects circulation and proper sweat gland function)
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms on a regular basis, or you recognize these symptoms in a child or relative, they may be signs of untreated diabetes. A doctor’s appointment should be made as soon as possible, so the individual experiencing the symptoms can — if diabetes is diagnosed — take the steps needed to prevent more serious health problems.